Testimony continues in sexual harassment trial

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 19, 2007

By Holly Lee

Salisbury Post

Jurors heard testimony Friday from the best friend of a former Rowan-Salisbury school teacher who is suing her former principal for sexual harassment.

Laurie Mendiola’s attorney, B. Ervin Brown, called Rebecca Carli to the witness stand to tell what she knew about the affair between Mendiola and former West Rowan Middle School Principal Tony Helms.

Carli testified that Mendiola told her about the affair but she didn’t know that Helms was forcing her friend to have sex with him until around January 2004.

The affair between Helms and Mendiola started around August 2003 and Mendiola learned she was pregnant with Helm’s child in December.

While Carli said she was very upset and angry with Helms for hurting her friend, she testified she never contacted police or the school board because Mendiola begged her not to.

Carli said she was very worried about Mendiola at one point and made her an appointment at Salisbury Psychiatric Associates.

As court recessed for lunch, Mendiola’s former counselor from Salisbury Psychiatric Associates, Cindy Baubach, was on the witness stand to testify about Mendiola’s visits.

In her lawsuit filed in May 2005, Mendiola says Helms forced her to have sex with him and threatened her job.

Helms admits the affair but says it was consensual.

Mendiola’s suit also says the Rowan County Board of Education was negligent in doing anything about the harassment situation.